Board of Overseers of the Bar v. Michael T. Pearson
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Docket No.: 13-397
Issued by: Board of Overseers of the Bar
Date: November 6, 2014
Respondent: Michael T. Pearson
Bar Number: 007425
Disposition/Conduct: Diligence; Prejudicial Conduct; Misconduct; Unauthorized Practice of Law
With due notice, on November 6, 2014 Panel C of the Grievance Commission conducted a public disciplinary hearing pursuant to Maine Bar Rule 7.1(e)(2)(E), concerning misconduct by the Respondent, Michael T. Pearson (Pearson). This disciplinary proceeding had been commenced by the filing of a stipulated Disciplinary Petition by the Board of Overseers of the Bar (the Board) on July 30, 2014. Pearson failed to file any Answer to that pleading, causing the facts set forth and the misconduct alleged in that Petition to be admitted by him pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(1).
At the hearing, Pearson was pro se and the Board was represented by Bar Counsel J. Scott Davis. Prior to the disciplinary proceeding, the parties had submitted a stipulated, proposed sanction Report for the Grievance Commission Panel’s review and consideration.
Having reviewed the agreed, proposed findings as presented by counsel, the Panel makes the following disposition:
Pearson of Dover, New Hampshire was admitted to the Maine Bar in March 1992. While living in Ohio, he was administratively suspended in Maine in late 1995 until being reinstated in February 2005. His primary law practice is located in New Hampshire. He is currently registered in the Board’s records as an administratively suspended attorney in Maine and thereby prohibited from practicing law in Maine. He was so suspended by the Board on November 13, 2013 due to his failure to properly register and/or comply with related administrative requirements with the Board under the Maine Bar Rules for fiscal (and registration) year 2013.
Prior to his 2013 suspension, Pearson had been registered as an active, non-resident Maine attorney. As such, he was and remains subject to the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct. By the time of his misconduct in the complaint matter, Pearson was subject to the administrative suspension.
This disciplinary matter was commenced through Bar Counsel’s receipt of information reporting that on December 18, 2013 Pearson had engaged in the unauthorized practice of law in Maine. That action occurred in a contested family matter pending in the Portland District Court, specifically captioned Jeff O’Brien v. Cyrena Gilpatrick Docket No. PORDC-FM-2013-201. As a result of his engaging in that court litigation while suspended from practice in Maine, Pearson violated M. Bar R. 6(a)(1) and M. R. Prof. Conduct 5.5(a)(b) and 8.4(a)(d).
In his initial discussion with the Board’s administrative staff, Pearson claimed a prior lack of awareness of being so suspended in Maine. In his January 28, 2014 response letter to Bar Counsel, he admitted that on December 18, 2013 he appeared in the Portland District Court in a client’s family matter, and later filed pleadings or related documents in that action on December 27, 2013. He reiterated that same admission of his misconduct to the Grievance Commission Panel at the November 6, 2014 hearing.
By his failure to answer the Board’s formal charges, Pearson has further constructively admitted that because he had knowingly failed to properly register in Maine for 2013, he is presumed to know he would be suspended in Maine pursuant to the Maine Bar Rules. He has also admitted that given his longstanding bar membership in Maine (since 1992), he knew or should have known the registration/renewal calendar cycle and related due dates spanning late July into August of each year. In addition, to the extent that a change in his mailing address may have been relevant to his being so suspended, Pearson has admitted he knew that under the Maine Bar Rules he was required to so notify the Board of his new address, but failed to do so at the proper and required time. His conduct violated Maine Bar Rule 6(a) as well as M. R. Prof. Conduct 8.4(a)(d).
Based on the facts and admissions set forth above, Pearson agrees and admits that he engaged in violations of Maine Bar Rule 6(a)(1) and Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules 1.3; 5.5(a)(b); and 8.4(a)(d).
The Maine Rules of Professional Conduct require attorneys to uphold their responsibilities to the public, clients and the courts. Due to Pearson’s actions, a court, opposing counsel, members of the public, colleagues and unsuspecting clients were misled to believe he was properly licensed to practice law in Maine. Moreover, due to his misrepresentation, a District Court judge understood and assumed status information that Pearson knew or should have known was inaccurate regarding his proper licensure and ability to practice law in Maine.
The Panel notes that Pearson has taken responsibility for his misconduct. He has no prior attorney disciplinary or sanction record in Maine. At the disciplinary hearing, Pearson expressed his remorse for his serious violations of the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct.
M. Bar. R. 2(a) provides that the purpose of bar disciplinary proceedings is not punishment, but rather the protection of the public from attorneys who, by their conduct, have demonstrated that they are unable to discharge properly their professional duties. Since the evidence supports a finding and Pearson agrees that he did in fact violate the Maine Bar Rules and the Maine Rules of Professional Conduct, the Panel finds that a public reprimand serves those purposes.
Therefore, the Panel accepts the agreement of the parties, including Pearson’s waiver of the right to file a Petition for Review, and concludes that the appropriate disposition of this case is a Public Reprimand to Michael T. Pearson which is now hereby issued and imposed upon him pursuant to M. Bar R. 7.1(e)(3)(C)(4).
Dated: November 6, 2014
For the Parties
J. Scott Davis
Michael T. Pearson
Respondent, pro se
Peter C. Fessenden, Esq., Panel Chair
Thomas H. Kelley, Esq., Panel Member
Richard P. Dana, CPA, Public Member